Female masturbation

When will female masturbation no longer be taboo?  I think I would feel less embarrassed if someone walked in on me having sex than if someone walked in on me masturbating. And that’s just crazy.

I am a female masturbator.

female masturbation

To avoid this blog post just turning into another one of my rants (have you read my rant about the anti-abortion campaign?) I thought I would do a bit of research…into female masturbation and into vibrators. Women’s sexuality and vibrators certainly have an interesting history. 

Until the twentieth century it was thought that women did not experience sexual desire or sexual pleasure.  Women were merely fleshy receptacles for male lust.  ‘Ladies’ had no sex drive and were required to ‘put up with’ sex in order to keep their husbands happy and to have children. 

In this culture, where women’s sexual desire did not and could not exist, there was no explanation for women’s erotic fantasies or wetness between the legs.  Doctors, perplexed by this condition that seemingly had no explanation, started to call this syndrome ‘hysteria’ which, incidentally, is the Greek word for uterus. 

For hysteria unrelieved by husbandly lust (which was quite common) and for single women, widows and unhappily married women, doctors advised horseback riding, which apparently caused enough clitoral stimulation to enable some women to orgasm.  Hmmm. 

For those for whom horse-riding just wasn’t good enough (and I would have been one of those women), doctors developed the reliable treatment of massaging oil onto women’s genitals and inserting one or two fingers into her vagina. 

This is certainly not a treatment I would expect to receive upon visiting my local GP!   

Oh, and because women had no sexual desire, their orgasms were called paroxysms.  Women couldn’t possibly orgasm. 

Unsurprisingly paroxysms administered by the doctor became quite popular.  By the end of the day, doctors’ hands ached having massaged a steady stream of women to paroxysm.  Our poor doctors were suffering from severe tendonitis. 

The vibrator was born and proved to be a much needed labour saving device.  It was not until the late nineteenth century that electric vibrators really revolutionised hysteria relief.  The electrical vibrator produced ‘paroxysm’ quickly and reliably. 

Women started buying their own personal massagers and were able to relieve their own hysteria. 

The birth of pornography changed all of this and vibrators were soon featured in porn films.  They quickly became socially unacceptable.  It was not until the Feminist campaign of the 1970s that vibrators for female sexual pleasure became a bit more mainstream.

But female masturbation still isn’t mainstream is it?

Female masturbation isn’t really something I talk about with my female  friends.  We talk about sex, but we don’t talk about masturbation.  Even in the University course I told you about, the one in which we talked about sex a lot, we didn’t really talk about female masturbation.  It is a taboo subject.

I think it is because female masturbation is taboo that men seem to find the idea of a woman masturbating a massive turn on.  At least in my experience they men find female masturbation a turn on.  There is a ‘dirty’ narrative that accompanies female masturbation.  Only girls who love sex masturbate.  Only girls who just can’t get enough.  This is a man’s fantasy right ? (Apologies to all of my male readers who may or may not find female masturbation a massive turn on –  you can let me know below in the comments 😉 )

This modern day narrative that female masturbation is dirty and illicit and immoral and forbidden is reinforced by the likes of Mack Major, a christian author from Florida.  Mack Major has published a letter stating that female “masturbation is a direct path to Satan”.   This makes me angry.   This religious fervour directed against women is part of a powerful movement trying to control women’s bodies and women’s sexuality in the name of religion. 

So, this is me ranting against it all.

I am a woman.
I am sexual.
I am not hysterical, I am horny.
I have orgasms not paroxysms.
I am a female masturbator.
And I am proud of it.

If you liked my rant on female masturbation you might want to watch this video advocating the need to talk about female masturbation. 

P.S.  I promise it is not porn.

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday
Reflections From Me


  1. April 17, 2016 / 6:58 am

    This is such an interesting read! I had no idea about any of this. Sounds like a really weird old world to me! I think I have literally one friend I can talk to about masturbation without it being weird and that’s probably only because she is just so blunt and up-front about everything and we have been friends forever! #KCACOLS

    • thesingleswan
      April 17, 2016 / 8:26 pm

      Hi Davina,

      I have one friend that I would talk about sex with, often in intricate detail, but not about masturbation. I remember talking to a school friend about masturbation, but that was many many years ago. I haven’t spoken about it since. Most definitely a taboo subject!

      thanks for your comment. Pen x

    • June 19, 2017 / 3:51 am

      It’s so ridiculous that females can’t talk about masturbation. Males talk about masturbation like it’s a badge of honor the more they do it, the better yet somehow there’s a ridiculous stigma to females and masturbation. I for one, love it and I’m proud of it!
      Vikki recently posted…Lelo Nea 2 ReviewMy Profile

      • thesingleswan
        June 19, 2017 / 9:37 pm

        Hi Vikki,

        thanks for your comment. Pen x

  2. April 17, 2016 / 8:13 am

    I love this! I actually wrote anonymously a while back for The Vagenda about how female masturbation is the first step on the road to being a revolutionary feminist haha.
    It’s ridiculous how differently male and female masturbation is viewed. Even in sex education at school we seemed to be told that boys had wet dreams and needed to masturbate…oh and girls get periods. Ridiculous. And I remember studying the whole hysteria thing, it’s pretty horrific I think. Great post! #KCACOLS

    • thesingleswan
      April 17, 2016 / 8:28 pm

      Hi Ellen, that sounds great! I will have a look at the Vagenda to see whether I can find your post.

      I also remember hearing about boys ‘wet dreams’ and masturbation at school, but never anything about female sexuality. Beyond the basics of the birds and the bees, which I was fortunate enough to have been told about by my mum, I think I learned most from Just Seventeen magazine. Do you remember that one? I don’t think it exists any more. Pen x

  3. April 17, 2016 / 9:30 am

    This is absolutely fascinating! I had no idea that women used to go to the doctors to get off…what a bizarre (and frankly, given my ancient GP, horrendous) thought!

    I completely agree with you, no idea why in this day and age it is still a taboo subject. Like many issues, though, it highlights the fact that feminism is still very much needed…

    (Plus, what are we single mums expected to do?! We have needs too!) 😉


    • thesingleswan
      April 17, 2016 / 8:29 pm

      Feminism is definitely needed!

      And yes, the idea of a GP delivering that kind of service is a terrible thought. Pen xx

    • thesingleswan
      April 17, 2016 / 8:30 pm

      Oh dear! Why are you scared? I don’t mean to be scary. I am glad I cheered you up though. Pen x

  4. April 17, 2016 / 10:28 am

    Another great post. I can’t believe what that author said – what ignorance! I have studied a bit about the female hysteria belief for part of my Victorian literature course at university and it was fascinating and also how this belief was reflected in the literature of the time, like the mad lady in the attic……It is sad that this is still a fairly taboo society. I am often reminded that despite us liking to think we all live in a progressive society in some ways we haven’t moved on at all. #KCACOLS
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    • thesingleswan
      April 17, 2016 / 8:31 pm

      Hi Emma,

      That sounds like a great course to have done at University. Do tell us more! Thanks for your comment. Pen x

  5. April 17, 2016 / 11:08 am

    oh you’re so brave! It really is still a taboo subject and certainly not one that I chat to friend about – even drunk gossip – but do guys chat about it either? probably not is my guess – they joke I’m sure but not really discuss it. Thanks for a great sunday morning read #KCACOL

    • thesingleswan
      April 17, 2016 / 8:32 pm

      thanks for your comment. And, I am probably not that brave. This blog is anonymous remember 😉 Pen xx

  6. April 17, 2016 / 1:55 pm

    Now that my wife has hit her mid 30s there are times when I wish she would take care of her own business a bit more and let me get some sleep! #KCACOLS
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    • thesingleswan
      April 17, 2016 / 8:33 pm

      Awesome! A laugh out loud comment. Thanks for leaving it. Pen

  7. April 17, 2016 / 3:07 pm

    It’s good to read such honesty! I have read a little on the hysteria stuff myself and it’s all just a bit silly isn’t it?! That women couldn’t possibly have a desire to have sex or be sexual or feel anything good from it?! Firstly, what exactly would be the reason to procreate? I’ve also been an Ann Summers rep and that really opened up my mind and my sexual confidence! #kcacols
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    • thesingleswan
      April 17, 2016 / 8:34 pm

      Thanks for your comment Kat. I’d love to hear more about your work as an Ann Summers rep! Pen x

  8. April 17, 2016 / 3:08 pm

    Wow what an honest post and you’re right it’s nothing to be ashamed of. #kcacols

    • thesingleswan
      April 17, 2016 / 8:34 pm

      Thanks Fran. Pen x

  9. April 17, 2016 / 3:33 pm

    I love your posts and this is all so true. I know during drunken conversations with my girlfriends we have all confessed to owning at least one sex toy, if not several! During my single years it was all that kept me going!!! #KCACOLS

    • thesingleswan
      April 17, 2016 / 8:35 pm

      Hi Laura,

      You obviously have a great group of close friends. That’s great. Keep them. x

    • thesingleswan
      April 17, 2016 / 8:35 pm

      HI Amanda,

      Yes, indeed, the comments far exceed the post in my view. thanks for yours. Pen x

  10. April 17, 2016 / 3:40 pm

    Such a funny post and i love the old school language, good work on the homework, i’ve learnt something new for sure! I also think that it should celebrated and as women we can just keep on coming! thanks for sharing #KCACOLS

    • thesingleswan
      April 17, 2016 / 8:36 pm

      Thanks Georgina! And, yes, we can just keep on coming. Pen x

  11. April 17, 2016 / 4:01 pm

    Those poor doctors and their poor hands lol, great post you always have something different to say! #kcacols

    • thesingleswan
      April 17, 2016 / 8:36 pm

      Thanks Nadine. Pen x

    • thesingleswan
      April 17, 2016 / 8:37 pm

      Hi Sarah,

      Yes, Thirsty Daddy’s comment was the best comment left on my blog in a long while. Pen x

  12. April 17, 2016 / 7:48 pm

    This author sounds laughable-direct path to Satan! Scary that there are people out there who actually think that way. I agree, the subject shouldn’t be such a taboo. #KCACOLS
    Min recently posted…Why I hate inspirational quotesMy Profile

    • thesingleswan
      April 17, 2016 / 8:38 pm

      Yep, I am going straight to hell. I suspect I won’t be alone. Pen x

  13. April 17, 2016 / 8:42 pm

    Love it. So true! We should all be loud and proud about it! I saw a film about ‘hysteria’ and the doctor’s ‘treatment’, I think, unsurprisingly it was called Hysteria. It’s mental that really happened! And that things haven’t changed more. #KCACOLS
    Ellamental Mama recently posted…5 Ways Blogging Saved My LifeMy Profile

    • thesingleswan
      April 18, 2016 / 9:05 pm

      Hi Ella,

      that sounds really interesting. I am going to look to see whether I can find Hysteria on Amazon now. thanks. Pen x

  14. April 17, 2016 / 8:46 pm

    I am reminded of that episode of Sex and the City where Charlotte becomes addicted to her Rampant Rabbit 🙂 I think that episode alone must have accounted for a boost in sales of said device! I also remember being at a party as a teenager where some sort of ‘truth or dare’ game was going on and one of the questions someone asked another girl was ‘do you masturbate’ to which she very vehemently denied it. Hmm. I understood though, it felt like something shameful or very very embarrassing somehow and why should it – it’s a part of the human experience. I particularly like Caitlin Moran’s description of her own discovery of masturbation as a teenager. So funny!
    Sam recently posted…The Truth about… #70My Profile

    • thesingleswan
      April 18, 2016 / 9:04 pm

      Hi Sam,

      I will have to search out Caitlin Moran’s description of her discovery of masturbation as a teenager. I bet it is hysterical. Loads of love. Pen x

  15. April 18, 2016 / 2:00 am

    Such a great topic! I don’t talk to my best friend at all about this, and we talk about just about anything else. Including this subject and our husbands! Funny though I have no issue talking about it with my husband! #KCACOLS
    Allyson Greene recently posted…The Rite to be NaughtyMy Profile

    • thesingleswan
      April 18, 2016 / 9:03 pm

      Hi Allyson,

      thanks for your comment. It is great that you have no issue talking about this with your husband. The person who you are married to should, at the end of the the day, be your best friend too. Loads of love. Pen x

  16. April 18, 2016 / 9:02 pm

    Excellent post, sharing the hell out of it. I am a masturbator too. No shame in, read and watch porn too on occasion. Female sexuality as a whole is still taboo, films that protray female ejaculation and orgasms continue to be rated higher than ones featuring male ejaculation and orgasms. #KCACOLS

    • thesingleswan
      April 18, 2016 / 9:53 pm

      Thank you! Please, share away. Pen xx

  17. April 18, 2016 / 9:37 pm

    I remember well the time my uni mates had an Ann Summers party and by bestie bought herself a rampant rabbit. She was not shy in telling us all about exactly how many orgasms she had had every time we saw her, this in a mixed group of friends too. It didn’t seem that odd or uncomfortable, but that is pretty much the only time I can ever remember female masturbation being brought up in discussion.
    x Alice
    Alice Nipper and Tyke recently posted…Pinterest wins #2 How I made a Dinosaur gardenMy Profile

    • thesingleswan
      April 18, 2016 / 9:52 pm

      Hi Alice,

      thanks for your comment. Yes, I remember a scant reference to one of my Uni friends having bought a rampant rabbit. My uni years were quite some time ago. that’s a long time since masturbation was discussed. Pen xx

  18. April 18, 2016 / 9:53 pm

    I’m glad I didn’t click this link while at work!

    In a weird way while it is taboo for women it’s also part of the mainstream in that Ann Summers parties remain oddly popular and that the stores are on the high street with tester models freely available on the shop floor.

    There’s a bewildering array of sex toys for women from the cheap and nasty to the high end super premium (and with a price tag to match) whereas the male ranges are often just…odd.

    I was surprised to see Lovehoney advertising on television but less surprised to see the target was clearly couples!

    One of the best bits about Caitlin Moran’s account of her experience was how embarrassed she felt having to read those passages out loud for the audio book recording. It’s a great book (How to be a woman) and well worth reading.


    • thesingleswan
      April 18, 2016 / 9:56 pm

      Heheee, Yes, I am glad you didn’t click on the link at work! I did give the blog post a clear and unambiguous title to help you out. I do remember Caitlin Moran’s book How to be a woman. I might find that passage again and re-read. thansk for your comment Pen xx

  19. April 19, 2016 / 12:03 am

    I suppose overall it is a taboo, but I have had a lot of friends that I’ve had discussions about masturbation with. The toys and techniques we like. We’ve actually gone shopping for things together, recommending this toy, gel, lube, video or that. Definitely not something I would talk to family or strangers about, but friends and I talk about it sometimes.


    • thesingleswan
      April 19, 2016 / 8:40 pm

      Good for you! It sounds like you have a great network of close friends. I bet you have a laugh and a great gossip over a bottle of wine! Pen x

  20. April 19, 2016 / 3:01 am

    I absolutely loved your post! Female masturbation has a very interesting history. Our previous generations misconceptions about female organism and masturbation is quite shocking, and really brings to the forefront how sexist our society is. Believing that women have no sexual desire is the same as saying that animals or babies do not feel pain. What is wrong with people!!

    • thesingleswan
      April 19, 2016 / 8:39 pm

      HI Tori,

      Thanks for your comment. yes, it is hard to believe really isn’t it? Surely if someone just listened to women then they may have realised and heard that women have sexual desires. Pen x

  21. April 19, 2016 / 5:38 am

    Hmm the doctor thing is very interesting, it would certainly make me choose a doctor who I was at least attracted too, or maybe even a female doctor as she would at least understand I wasn’t crazy (although female doctors were hard to find back then). I remember the first time my bestie and I confessed we masturbated we were so embarrassed to admit it, but relieved we weren’t the only ones, it’s not like my mum spoke to me about it! Anyway great post! #mg
    Mackenzie Glanville recently posted…How to have a happy marriage #mgMy Profile

    • thesingleswan
      April 19, 2016 / 8:37 pm

      Hi Mac,

      Goodness me, I could imagine talking about masturbation to a couple of friends – although it is not something that I actually do, but I can’t imagine talking to my Mum about it. Goodness gracious me! thanks for your comment. Pen x

  22. April 19, 2016 / 10:02 am

    I love it when I am really engrossed in a blog post and yours hit the spot!;)

    Well done for talking about this, you’re right, we feel so many weird emotions over female masturbation that it’s good to read something that doesn’t make us feel odd!

    mainy – myrealfairy
    mainy – myrealfairy recently posted…Bee House….is it a good idea with kids?!!!My Profile

    • thesingleswan
      April 19, 2016 / 8:36 pm

      Thanks Mainy. I am glad you were really engrossed. Pen x

  23. April 19, 2016 / 8:00 pm

    An interesting read, when I saw this pop-up on the #KCACOLS I did think how was I going to comment on this, as I’m a little prudish when it comes to things like this and discussing them 🙂 I find it crazy that people used to go to the doctors to have such procedure done. As you say it is still a taboo subject, and it shouldn’t be, on the flip reverse male masterbation can be considered the norm, so I’m not sure why it shouldn’t be the same for females. Thanks so much for linking up at #KCACOLS. Hope you come back again next Sunday. Claire x

    • thesingleswan
      April 19, 2016 / 8:35 pm

      Hi Claire,

      thanks for your comment. I am glad you found the post interesting even though you were nervous about commenting. I will be linking up to #KCACOLS again soon. Thanks Pen xx

    • thesingleswan
      April 20, 2016 / 12:28 pm

      Hi Charlene,

      Yes, you are right. Cygnet has started playing with his willy in the bath and he is only 18 months. That’s decades ahead. Loads of love Pen x

  24. April 20, 2016 / 7:41 am

    This was a really interesting read; I didn’t know the history of female masturbation so I learned a few things! It is ridiculous that it is still taboo. I remember reading a review, written by a man, of Black Swan, and the fact that Natalie Portman had a self love session got a BIG mention in the review. I’m not sure if that was a good thing or not, that he made such a big deal of it. #KCACOLS
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    • thesingleswan
      April 20, 2016 / 12:27 pm

      Hi Jenny,

      thanks for your comment. I think the fact that he made such a big deal of it is indicative of how much of a taboo female masturbation is. I am glad you found this post an interesting read. Pen xx

  25. April 20, 2016 / 12:53 pm

    Awesomely honest post. I had no idea about orgasms being called paroxysms or being administered by a doctor! Am glad we’ve at least progressed beyond that although, as you say, it’s still taboo. I do think Sex and the City helped women talk about masturbation a bit more, or at least think of it as something that maybe it’s ok to talk about even if, ‘eeek, we can’t ACTUALLY talk about that!’ but yeah, I don’t think I’d talk about it with anyone other than my husband. Good on you for saying it like it is!
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    • thesingleswan
      April 21, 2016 / 8:43 pm

      Hi Maddy,

      Yes, you’re right SATC did help to make this a conversation topic for some over a bottle of wine, and for that we must be grateful. Still a long way to go though…

      thanks for your comment.

      Pen x

  26. April 20, 2016 / 4:00 pm

    I have a feeling that men talk about masturbation frequently. It is widely accepted that every man does it. You’re right that it isn’t socially acceptable for women to do the same. Very interesting all your research.
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    • thesingleswan
      April 21, 2016 / 8:42 pm

      Thanks Suzanne. I am glad you found the post interesting. Pen x

    • thesingleswan
      April 21, 2016 / 8:42 pm

      Hi Michelle,

      thank you! Best regards

      Pen x

  27. April 21, 2016 / 12:11 am

    I’ve heard about how doctors used to do that before – so weird! & the diagnosis of ‘hysteria’ for this & the many other things it was applied to was ridiculous. Ironically, I think at one point the obsession with diagnosing women with hysteria itself bordered on hysteria! #KCACOLS
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    • thesingleswan
      April 21, 2016 / 8:41 pm


      thanks for your comment. It is indeed weird. I also find it completely strange that these diagnoses were happening regularly and no one sought to question the underlying cause. Pen x

  28. April 22, 2016 / 10:14 pm

    Such an interesting post and lot I didn’t know about masturbation. It’s interesting how female masturbation is hardly ever talked about but male masturbation is seen even on mainstream media in the form of crude jokes. Thanks for speaking about subjects that are still taboo…we need it!

    • thesingleswan
      April 23, 2016 / 9:47 pm

      Ah yes, I agree. American pie has got a lot to answer for. pen x

  29. April 24, 2016 / 11:49 am

    I applaud you for this amazing post. It was always a question of mine “How it is acceptable for a stranger to try to please you when it is not OK for you to be able to please yourself?”.

    It is like telling me that someone else can help me feed or drink water because apparently I cannot do it by myself. Sex is a basic need like food, water and sleep. I don’t necessarily need someone else to satisfy this need. There is a difference between Need and Want. Wanting someone to share intimacy? Yes. Do I need them? No. Simple as that!

    Psychic Nest recently posted…Karma and the Cosmic BalanceMy Profile

    • thesingleswan
      April 25, 2016 / 8:14 pm

      Hi Zaria, thanks for your comment and your black and white depiction of sexuality. Plain and simple. I like it. Pen x

  30. April 25, 2016 / 12:57 am

    I just happened to open up Twitter and here is this glorious post about female masturbation written by you! Of course I had to read it as I am a loud and proud female masturbator myself! Sometimes I’d almost prefer it over sex. Shhh don’t tell my husband lol. It does surprise me that with some women it’s such a taboo. Like it’s shameful or something to talk about. I call most of them kind of women prudes and don’t associate much with them. Great post!
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    • thesingleswan
      April 25, 2016 / 8:10 pm

      Hi Trista,

      tHanks for your awesome comment. Rest assured your secret’s safe with me. Your husband will never know. Pen xx

  31. April 25, 2016 / 8:26 am

    Okay, so this was basically sexual assault… with the consent. Although obviously it wasn’t *really* consentual. This really gets my goat, particularly having just recently seen the film Suffragette. This could turn into a verrry long blog comment Pen! Such a thought-provoking post…
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    • thesingleswan
      April 25, 2016 / 8:09 pm

      Indeed it was. But I very much doubt that sexual assault existed as a concept in the early 1900s either. Yes, the film Suffragette made me quite angry too. Pen x

    • thesingleswan
      March 19, 2017 / 10:32 am

      Absolutely! Pen x

    • thesingleswan
      March 21, 2017 / 5:19 pm

      haha, enjoy. Pen x

  32. May 17, 2017 / 6:16 am

    “doctors advised horseback riding” OMG. You would have to be so ridiculously sexually frustrated that riding a horse would lead to orgasm!
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    • thesingleswan
      May 17, 2017 / 7:41 pm

      I am not a horse-rider so I wouldn’t really know… Hysterical really. Pen x

  33. June 24, 2017 / 12:31 pm

    Wow, awesome post and it’s about time it is out in the open! Thank you Pen. What a history, this hysteria! Today, they would be locked up! I remember the scene in ‘Fried Green Tomatos’ when they all took out their mirror to look at their vaginas. I did tis ealry on as a child. Hey, if we can’t please ourselpves, how do we expect someone else to do so? Thank you for this post, the visual aids and all that jazz. Now, where are the batteries? The kids are still asleep… #ThatFridayLinky
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    • thesingleswan
      June 24, 2017 / 8:53 pm

      Hi Lisa,

      Thanks for your comment. I hope the kids stayed asleep for you and that you had fun. Pen x

  34. September 14, 2017 / 7:56 pm

    I can just imagine booking an appointment for the GP, and the nosey receptionist asking the reason; “I require one paroxysm – stat!”

    Great post!
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    • thesingleswan
      September 14, 2017 / 8:55 pm

      Thank you. Pen x

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